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101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Senator Marco Rubio on: February 20, 2015, 04:46:03 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/02/20/this-marco-rubio-statement-on-rudy-giuliani-is-about-perfect/ 
102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pentagon refuses to back bombing of Libya by Egypt on: February 20, 2015, 08:13:08 AM
http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/02/19/pentagon-refuses-to-back-egyptian-bombing-of-isis-in-libya-after-christian-slaughter/
103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tin foil hat conspiracy stuff that sounds plausible in many ways on: February 20, 2015, 12:31:24 AM
Haven't had a chance to give this a proper look, but I wanted to post it for my future reference:

http://www.dcclothesline.com/2015/02/05/leaked-evidence-sen-john-mccain-involved-major-islamic-conspiracy-establish-islamic-state/
104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. McCain's plan on: February 19, 2015, 08:24:10 PM
second post

http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2015/02/19/john-mccain-has-a-plan-to-fight-the-islamic-state-that-almost-no-one-else-is-talking-about/
105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Articulating our cause/strategy against Islamic Fascism on: February 19, 2015, 04:07:14 PM
http://chrishernandezauthor.com/2015/02/18/stop-alienating-muslim-good-guys/

106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: GOP's Electoral Cliff on: February 18, 2015, 06:15:27 PM

GOP's Electoral Cliff
By DICK MORRIS
Published on TheHill.com on February 17, 2015
The 3.9 percentage point margin by which President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in 2012 clouds the challenge the Republicans face in 2016. Unless they are able to improve their standing by 5 to 6 points in the key electoral states, they cannot win.

Romney got 206 electoral votes (carrying his closest state, North Carolina, by only 2.2 points). To add to this total, much less to bring it up to the 270 needed to win, Republicans must carry a number of states where they lost by 5 or more points in 2012.

Here are the closest states that went for Obama in 2012:

• Florida: 29 votes; margin 0.9 points

• Ohio: 18 votes; margin 1.9 points

• Virginia: 13 votes; margin 3.0 points

• Colorado: 9 votes; margin 4.7 points

• Pennsylvania: 20 votes; margin 5.2 points

• Iowa: 6 votes; margin 5.6 points

• New Hampshire: 4 votes; margin 5.8 points

• Nevada: 6 votes; margin 6.6 points

• Wisconsin: 10 votes; margin 6.7 points

Note how sharply Obama's margins increase as we scroll down the list to marginal states he carried in 2012. Taking Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado, combined with the ones Romney carried, would suffice to reach a majority. A tall order, indeed.

If the 2016 Republican candidate were merely to close the gap in the popular vote -- and this were reflected in the swing states -- he would still lose, getting only 268 of the 270 he needs to win. He has to do better to win. If the vote in swing states reflected the overall national vote, the GOP nominee in 2016 would need to win by 2 points in order to eke out a bare electoral majority. A George W. Bush 2000 performance would not cut it (Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore by 0.5 percentage points). Even the 2004 margin by which Bush defeated John Kerry, 2.4 points, would prove only barely adequate, representing a 5.4-point swing.

The results of 2014 give Republicans hope as they contemplate the electoral map. They carried Iowa, Colorado, Florida, Ohio and came very close in Virginia. So scaling the electoral mountain is quite possible for a Republican.

In this context, we Republicans must look for a candidate who brings an electoral vote edge with him. In a sense, the criterion that normally governs the selection of a vice president must now intrude into our choice for president.

Jeb Bush brings with him obvious strength in Florida, where he served as a popular governor for two terms. Similarly, Sen. Marco Rubio would have an edge in that state. But any Republican has got to win Florida to have a chance, and just winning Florida would leave him far behind nationally.

Similarly, John Kasich's edge in Ohio simply helps a Republican win a state he has to carry but that would still leave him shy of the 270 he needed (assuming he carried both Florida and Ohio).

Only Scott Walker of Wisconsin appears to offer the chance for a decisive shift in the electoral vote. Having won election twice and survived a statewide recall vote, his ability to carry a state Romney lost is pretty well established. Were Walker able to carry Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin, he would need only seven more electoral votes to win, which he could pick up in Virginia or Colorado.

Viewed another way, a Hispanic Republican candidate would give the party a much better shot at Colorado's nine votes and Nevada's six, in addition, of course, to Florida's 29.

But without Wisconsin or Hispanic candidate, the electoral challenge is daunting, indeed.
107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: February 18, 2015, 04:52:47 PM
Netanyahu’s Capitol Hill Debacle
The Israeli leader and House speaker are risking a rupture in U.S.-Israel relations.
By
William A. Galston
Feb. 17, 2015 7:20 p.m. ET
WSJ

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ’s speech to Congress on March 3 will be both a nakedly partisan event and a momentous policy clash.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday” this weekend, House Speaker John Boehner was frank about his motives for leaving the White House in the dark about the invitation. “I wanted to make sure that there was no interference,” he said, citing White House “animosity” toward the Israeli leader: “I frankly didn’t want that getting in the way, quashing what I thought was a real opportunity.” Asked whether he had turned what has been a rare bipartisan issue into a political dispute, Mr. Boehner replied, “We had every right to do what we did”—a debatable response to a different question.

If inviting the prime minister of a major American ally to address a joint session of Congress two weeks before his country’s general election without notifying the president and congressional Democratic leaders isn’t rank partisanship, I don’t know what is. Mr. Netanyahu, who is hardly inexperienced in the ways of Washington, had to know how this would be received. The inescapable inference is that he did not care, and it isn’t hard to see why.

Begin with the obvious. While accepting Mr. Boehner’s invitation in principle, the prime minister could have told the House speaker that he was unable to leave Israel until after the election. There is no part of Mr. Netanyahu’s message to Congress that would be less relevant or influential for U.S. audiences if it were delivered on April 3 rather than March 3. There is only one audience for whom the timing might make a difference—the Israeli electorate.

But this is about much more than electoral politics. For Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is an existential question, as he made clear in a statement last week that Israel has “a profound disagreement with the United States administration and the rest of the P5+1 over the offer that has been made to Iran. This offer would enable Iran to threaten Israel’s survival.”

Mr. Netanyahu is determined to prevent this offer, or anything like it, from becoming U.S. policy. To that end, he is prepared to mobilize a Republican-led Congress against the president, to force longtime Democratic supporters of Israel to choose between him and President Obama—and, if necessary, to turn U.S.-Israel relations into the partisan issue it has rarely been.

And why not? The prime minister views himself as this generation’s Winston Churchill, with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei cast as Adolf Hitler. To bring the U.S. into the looming conflict, Churchill worked with Franklin Roosevelt to overcome a reluctant Congress. Now Mr. Netanyahu must work with Congress to overcome a reluctant president. And like Churchill, Mr. Netanyahu believes that words are his best weapons—words delivered by one man standing alone on a rostrum representing an embattled ally, invoking common interests, shared principles and the bonds of friendship.

The prime minister is confident that he can do this without weakening, let alone rupturing, the relationship between Israel and the U.S. His statement last week featured a long list of past security disagreements between the two countries despite which, he insists, the relationship grew stronger over time.

But this time could be different. In a recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic magazine, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and one of Mr. Netanyahu’s closest advisers, detailed Israel’s concerns:

“Israel’s policy is not merely to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon today; it is also to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon in the future. And Israel is very concerned that a deal will be forged that will not dismantle Iran’s nuclear-weapons capability. . . . That is an outcome that is unacceptable to Israel.” Specifically, Israel lacks confidence that international inspections would prevent the diversion of materials produced by the many thousands of centrifuges that reportedly would remain under the terms of the emerging agreement. And once the sanctions are lifted, the Iranian nuclear program could accelerate.

Mr. Netanyahu must know that even with much tougher sanctions, the chances of overcoming these concerns through diplomacy are low. The most the Iranians will offer falls far short of the least that Israel will accept. The real choices reduce to two: an Iran with some negotiated level of nuclear infrastructure supervised with a rigorous inspection regime, or war.

The prime minister must also know that although Israel’s military could inflict significant damage on Iran’s nuclear program, his country could at best delay Iran’s march to the bomb.

So when Mr. Netanyahu addresses Congress, a question will be lurking in the shadows: If negotiations leave Israel facing what it regards as an existential threat, should the U.S. accept the deal? And if we do not, is there an alternative that would be more effective, at a price that the war-weary American people would accept?
Popular on WSJ
108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Hillbillary's Most Lucrative Adventure on: February 18, 2015, 11:05:18 AM
Foreign Government Gifts to Clinton Foundation on the Rise
Donations raise ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up expected 2016 bid
By James V. Grimaldi And
Rebecca Ballhaus
Updated Feb. 17, 2015 11:05 p.m. ET
WSJ

The Clinton Foundation has dropped its self-imposed ban on collecting funds from foreign governments and is winning contributions at an accelerating rate, raising ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up her expected bid for the presidency.

Recent donors include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.

In 2009, the Clinton Foundation stopped raising money from foreign governments after Mrs. Clinton became secretary of state. Former President Bill Clinton, who ran the foundation while his wife was at the State Department, agreed to the gift ban at the behest of the Obama administration, which worried about a secretary of state’s husband raising millions while she represented U.S. interests abroad.

The ban wasn’t absolute; some foreign government donations were permitted for ongoing programs approved by State Department ethics officials.

The donations come as Mrs. Clinton prepares for an expected run for the Democratic nomination for president, and they raise many of the same ethical quandaries. Since leaving the State Department in early 2013, Mrs. Clinton officially joined the foundation, which changed its name to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, and has become a prodigious fundraiser as the foundation launched a $250 million endowment campaign, officials said.

A representative for Hillary Clinton referred all questions to the Clinton Foundation.

A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation said the charity has a need to raise money for its many projects, which aim to do such things as improve education, health care and the environment around the world. He also said that donors go through a vigorous vetting process.

One of the 2014 donations comes from a Canadian agency promoting the proposed Keystone pipeline, which is favored by Republicans and under review by the Obama administration. The Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development agency of Canada, a first-time donor, gave between $250,000 and $500,000. The donations, which are disclosed voluntarily by the foundation, are given only in ranges.

One of the agency’s priorities for 2014-2015 was to promote Keystone XL “as a stable and secure source of energy and energy technology,” according to the agency’s website. Mrs. Clinton’s State Department was involved in approving the U.S. government’s initial environmental-impact statement. Since leaving State, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly declined to comment on Keystone.

The Canadian donation originated from an agency office separate from the one that advocates for Keystone XL, a Foundation spokesman said.

While the Canadian donation didn’t appear in a Clinton Foundation online database of donors until recently, the donation of about $480,000 was announced in June in Cartagena, Colombia, where the program provides job training for youths.

Kirk Hanson, director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California, said the Clintons should immediately reimpose the ban, for the same reasons it was in place while Mrs. Clinton led U.S. foreign policy.

“Now that she is gearing up to run for president, the same potential exists for foreign governments to curry favor with her as a potential president of the United States,” he said.

If she becomes president and deals with these nations, “she can’t recuse herself,” added James Thurber, director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “Whether it influences her decision making is questionable, but it is a legitimate thing to focus on by her political opposition.”

The donations weren’t announced by the foundation and were discovered by The Wall Street Journal during a search of donations of more than $50,000 posted on the foundation’s online database. Exactly when the website was updated isn’t clear. The foundation typically updates its website with the previous year’s donations near the beginning of the year. All 2014 donations were noted with asterisks.

At least four foreign countries gave to the foundation in 2013—Norway, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands—a fact that has garnered little attention. The number of governments contributing in 2014 appears to have doubled from the previous year. Since its founding, the foundation has raised at least $48 million from overseas governments, according to a Journal tally.

United Arab Emirates, a first-time donor, gave between $1 million and $5 million in 2014, and the German government—which also hadn’t previously given—contributed between $100,000 and $250,000.

A previous donor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has given between $10 million and $25 million since the foundation was created in 1999. Part of that came in 2014, although the database doesn’t specify how much.

The Australian government has given between $5 million and $10 million, at least part of which came in 2014. It also gave in 2013, when its donations fell in the same range.

Qatar’s government committee preparing for the 2022 soccer World Cup gave between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014. Qatar’s government had previously donated between $1 million and $5 million.

Oman, which had made a donation previously, gave an undisclosed amount in 2014. Over time, Oman has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million. Prior to last year, its donations fell in the same range.

The Clinton Foundation has set a goal of creating a $250 million endowment, an official said. One purpose was secure the future of the foundation’s programs without having to rely so much on the former president’s personal fundraising efforts, the official said.

The Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman donations went to the endowment drive.

Write to James V. Grimaldi at James.Grimaldi@wsj.com
109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Hillbillary's Most Lucrative Adventure on: February 18, 2015, 11:04:11 AM
Foreign Government Gifts to Clinton Foundation on the Rise
Donations raise ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up expected 2016 bid
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton address the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in September 2014. ENLARGE
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton address the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in September 2014. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency
By
James V. Grimaldi And
Rebecca Ballhaus
Updated Feb. 17, 2015 11:05 p.m. ET
95 COMMENTS

The Clinton Foundation has dropped its self-imposed ban on collecting funds from foreign governments and is winning contributions at an accelerating rate, raising ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up her expected bid for the presidency.

Recent donors include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.
Read More on Capital Journal

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In 2009, the Clinton Foundation stopped raising money from foreign governments after Mrs. Clinton became secretary of state. Former President Bill Clinton, who ran the foundation while his wife was at the State Department, agreed to the gift ban at the behest of the Obama administration, which worried about a secretary of state’s husband raising millions while she represented U.S. interests abroad.

The ban wasn’t absolute; some foreign government donations were permitted for ongoing programs approved by State Department ethics officials.

The donations come as Mrs. Clinton prepares for an expected run for the Democratic nomination for president, and they raise many of the same ethical quandaries. Since leaving the State Department in early 2013, Mrs. Clinton officially joined the foundation, which changed its name to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, and has become a prodigious fundraiser as the foundation launched a $250 million endowment campaign, officials said.

A representative for Hillary Clinton referred all questions to the Clinton Foundation.

A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation said the charity has a need to raise money for its many projects, which aim to do such things as improve education, health care and the environment around the world. He also said that donors go through a vigorous vetting process.

One of the 2014 donations comes from a Canadian agency promoting the proposed Keystone pipeline, which is favored by Republicans and under review by the Obama administration. The Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development agency of Canada, a first-time donor, gave between $250,000 and $500,000. The donations, which are disclosed voluntarily by the foundation, are given only in ranges.

One of the agency’s priorities for 2014-2015 was to promote Keystone XL “as a stable and secure source of energy and energy technology,” according to the agency’s website. Mrs. Clinton’s State Department was involved in approving the U.S. government’s initial environmental-impact statement. Since leaving State, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly declined to comment on Keystone.

The Canadian donation originated from an agency office separate from the one that advocates for Keystone XL, a Foundation spokesman said.

While the Canadian donation didn’t appear in a Clinton Foundation online database of donors until recently, the donation of about $480,000 was announced in June in Cartagena, Colombia, where the program provides job training for youths.

Kirk Hanson, director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California, said the Clintons should immediately reimpose the ban, for the same reasons it was in place while Mrs. Clinton led U.S. foreign policy.

“Now that she is gearing up to run for president, the same potential exists for foreign governments to curry favor with her as a potential president of the United States,” he said.

If she becomes president and deals with these nations, “she can’t recuse herself,” added James Thurber, director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “Whether it influences her decision making is questionable, but it is a legitimate thing to focus on by her political opposition.”

The donations weren’t announced by the foundation and were discovered by The Wall Street Journal during a search of donations of more than $50,000 posted on the foundation’s online database. Exactly when the website was updated isn’t clear. The foundation typically updates its website with the previous year’s donations near the beginning of the year. All 2014 donations were noted with asterisks.

At least four foreign countries gave to the foundation in 2013—Norway, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands—a fact that has garnered little attention. The number of governments contributing in 2014 appears to have doubled from the previous year. Since its founding, the foundation has raised at least $48 million from overseas governments, according to a Journal tally.

United Arab Emirates, a first-time donor, gave between $1 million and $5 million in 2014, and the German government—which also hadn’t previously given—contributed between $100,000 and $250,000.

A previous donor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has given between $10 million and $25 million since the foundation was created in 1999. Part of that came in 2014, although the database doesn’t specify how much.

The Australian government has given between $5 million and $10 million, at least part of which came in 2014. It also gave in 2013, when its donations fell in the same range.

Qatar’s government committee preparing for the 2022 soccer World Cup gave between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014. Qatar’s government had previously donated between $1 million and $5 million.

Oman, which had made a donation previously, gave an undisclosed amount in 2014. Over time, Oman has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million. Prior to last year, its donations fell in the same range.

The Clinton Foundation has set a goal of creating a $250 million endowment, an official said. One purpose was secure the future of the foundation’s programs without having to rely so much on the former president’s personal fundraising efforts, the official said.

The Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman donations went to the endowment drive.

Write to James V. Grimaldi at James.Grimaldi@wsj.com
110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq condemns Egypt's bombing of ISIS in Libya on: February 18, 2015, 10:57:27 AM
You can't make this up , , ,  cry cry cry

http://www.redflagnews.com/headlines-2015/obama-condemns-egypt-bombing-isis-in-retaliation-for-slaughter-of-christians
111  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / CA inmates killed at 2x the national average, esp'ly sex offenders on: February 18, 2015, 10:55:45 AM


http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20150216/california-inmates-killed-at-rate-double-national-average-sex-offenders-among-most-targeted
112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gun Rights Groups await Microstamping Decision on: February 18, 2015, 10:53:38 AM
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/02/17/gun-rights-groups-await-judge-ruling-on-california-microstamping-law/
113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Big Hope for New Molecule against AIDs on: February 18, 2015, 09:26:37 AM
Scientists have engineered a new molecule they say can block infection with the virus that causes AIDS, a discovery that could lead potentially to a new therapy for patients as well as an alternative to a vaccine.

Researchers have been trying for three decades to develop an effective vaccine against the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. They are also searching for a way to flush HIV out of the bodies of the infected, to cure them. But the ever-evolving virus has eluded them thus far.

Now, a team from the Scripps Research Institute and other institutions says it has identified a new way to prevent HIV from infecting cells, using an approach that resembles gene therapy or transfer.

HIV normally invades the body through two cellular receptors. The new protein the scientists created blocks the points where the virus binds to both receptors, leaving no point of entry.

Because it attaches to both receptors rather than just one, the protein, called eCD4-IG, blocks more HIV strains than any of several powerful antibodies that have been shown to disable the virus, the researchers said. The research was published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.

“It is absolutely 100% effective,” said Michael Farzan, a professor of infectious diseases at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla. and lead author of the study. “There is no question that it is by far the broadest entry inhibitor out there.”

The approach has been tested only on four rhesus monkeys, and has yet to be tried on humans.

But the researchers and other scientists not involved with the work said it shows promise and should move into human testing quickly. An estimated 35 million people are infected with HIV, but only 13.6 million receive drug treatment to keep the virus from spreading.

“It’s very clever and very powerful,” said Nancy Haigwood, an HIV researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, who wasn’t involved in the study. “This is going to be much better than any vaccine on the horizon,” said Dr. Haigwood, who also wrote about its potential as a vaccine alternative in a commentary in Nature.

The scientists created the protein by fusing together elements of both cellular receptors to which HIV binds. They then injected genetic material from the protein into a muscle of the rhesus monkeys, stimulating production of the new molecule.

They infected the monkeys with multiple hybrid versions of HIV, administering up to four times the amount of virus it took to infect a control group. The protein protected the monkeys for 40 weeks.

Dr. Farzan said the monkeys were uninfected even when given 16 times the amount of virus that it took to infect the control group in experiments conducted after the study was completed.

He said he hoped human trials could begin within a year, after more testing in animals that is already under way. The first step, he said, would be to gauge the ability of the molecule to keep virus levels in HIV-positive people in check.

“We believe our goal now is to show it can work therapeutically,” he said.

The next step would be to test its efficacy as a vaccine, in people who don’t have the virus but are at high risk of infection, Dr. Farzan said.

The work builds on a 2009 study that proposed using gene transfer as an alternative to a traditional vaccine for HIV.

Philip Johnson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who led that earlier work, said the new research offers promise for that concept. “It appears to be an extraordinarily potent molecule,” he said. “It’s further validating of the idea that we should be thinking in alternate terms about how to attack HIV vaccines.”

He said it should be tested in humans right away. “To me the nonhuman primate data are outstanding,” he said.

Write to Betsy McKay at betsy.mckay@wsj.com
114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Air Power over Kobane on: February 18, 2015, 09:14:40 AM
http://news.yahoo.com/battle-kobane-us-crews-recount-heavy-bombing-075326579.html
115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why the World's Best Military Keeps Losing Wars on: February 18, 2015, 08:02:31 AM

Why The World’s Biggest Military Keeps Losing Wars
Tom Streithorst
14 Jan 2015

Before Korea, America never lost a war. Ever since, other than the first Gulf War, it hasn’t won any. In Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan America spent trillions of dollars, exploded countless tons of munitions, killed hundreds of thousands of enemy combatants along with innocent civilians and accomplished hardly any of the goals its leaders proclaimed when they sent their soldiers into battle.

America’s inability to translate its immense firepower into meaningful political effect suggests the $500 billion it spends annually on defence is wasted. In a recent article in the Atlantic Magazine, James Fallows asked the previously unmentionable question: how can America spend more on its military than all the other great powers combined and still be unable to impose its will on even moderately sized enemies?

I think the media generally ignores this question because the answers skewers shibboleths revered by both left and right. I spent much of the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a news cameraman embedded with the American military. I like American soldiers, enjoy their company, respect their bravery, their loyalty, their ethos: but hanging out on their Forward Operating Bases, I could see why the world’s most expensive military doesn’t win wars. Here are four factors worth considering, in descending order of importance.

Too much logistics, not enough combat.

They call it the tooth to tail ratio: the number of combat soldiers compared to the number in support roles. More than three-quarters of Americans in Iraq didn’t fight. A ridiculously large number of American soldiers spent their entire tour in Iraq “inside the wire”, barely leaving their huge prefabricated bases that felt more like Arizona than Anbar.

My Baghdad based colleagues and I used to look forward to embeds so we could eat all American cuisine at the mess halls. Pecan pie, sweet ice tea, lobster and steak on Fridays, all shipped halfway around the globe. The logistical tail was wagging the combat dog.  In Afghanistan, the Americans had to pay off the Taliban so the supplies could get through.

I never thought I would say this out loud, but Donald Rumsfeld was right about one thing: the American military is too big and bulky. Special Forces are lean and mean and - not coincidentally - more successful. The one triumph of the misbegotten War on Terror was the rapid defeat of the Taliban in the fall of 2001. With almost no regular army involvement, a handful of Special Forces commandos slipped into Afghanistan, liaisoned with Northern Alliance units, and coordinated air strikes against Taliban positions. At the time, the Taliban held all but a few slivers of Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance was outnumbered, outgunned and heading towards ignominious defeat, but the combination of local boots on the ground, elite American scouts and massive American airpower proved unbeatable. Within a month, the Taliban recognized they had lost and faded away, at least for a few years.

The military would be more successful if it was smaller and more concentrated. America should shrink its regular army and focus on elite units who can get in, accomplish a targeted mission, and get out quickly. A smaller footprint solves a multitude of problems, both logistical and political.

Learn the Language

One desert night on a Marine base outside Basra, I chatted with an Egyptian interpreter hired by the US military.  Knowing that Cairene Arabic is vastly different from that of Southern Iraq, I asked him if he had any trouble understanding the local dialect.  He shook his head. “I have no idea what they are saying. I have a much easier time understanding you.”  His English was excellent, which is presumably why he got the job, but his comprehension of Basrawi Arabic was almost nonexistent.  But Marine officers, who inevitably spoke no Arabic, depended on him to explain what the locals were trying to tell them. Since the interpreter just made up what he thought his bosses wanted to hear, the Marines were operating with negative intelligence.

The moral: don’t invade a country if you are too lazy to learn the language. If you can’t understand what people are saying, you are operating blind. I’ve been told by American officials that up to 95% of the Iraqis imprisoned in American brigs were probably guilty of nothing. They were ratted out, perhaps by someone who owed them money, and the gullible Americans just locked them up. Imprisoning the innocent created unnecessary   enemies for the occupation. In 2003, most Iraqis were pleased at Saddam Hussein’s ouster. They could have been predisposed to support American aims, if the Americans hadn’t alienated so many of them for little reason. It is impossible to successfully conduct a war if you can’t distinguish friend from foe because they all look the same to you. If more American soldiers understood Arabic, their insight and awareness of Iraqi culture could have made a huge difference.

Fear of Casualties

One of the most moving moments of my time in Iraq was a memorial service for a young soldier, nicknamed “Doc”, a 19 year-old medic killed by an improvised explosive device in Diyala Province. Almost all of Camp War Horse showed up for the ceremony. We stared at his boots and dog tags while his comrades remembered his bravery and kindness. As the service came to a close, his Sergeant called roll. He barked out the dead man’s name; the silence was blistering, and unforgettable. Four Generals flew in from Baghdad to pay their respects. As well they should. The death of a young man is always a tragedy. But had generals in the First World War gone to as many funerals, they would never have been able to plot the next battle.

The American military is deeply committed to force protection, to not losing soldiers.  Captains tell you proudly their primary goal is to get through the tour without any fatalities. This is an admirable sign of human decency, but it is not particularly bellicose. It is impossible to imagine William the Conqueror, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, or Patton focusing above all else on not losing soldiers. Historically, officers are happy to use their men as cannon fodder if it will help them achieve their objectives.

In 1982, Reagan sent Marines into Beirut to try and stop the Civil War. When a car bomb killed 241 of them, he soon withdrew the entire force. In 1993 Clinton sent US soldiers into Somalia for a similar humanitarian purpose. When a few of them were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the domestic political fallout was such that they too were quickly extracted. Our fear of death sends a message to our enemies. Despite apparent American strength, its enemies know if they have a little patience and inflict a little pain, the Americans will probably leave.

Only go to war if it is worth sacrificing your children. When Hitler invaded Russia, Stalin’s son went to the front, was captured and eventually died in a POW camp. Would Bush have been so happy to invade Iraq had he expected Jenna and Barbara to end up on point in Fallujah? Of course not. And that brings us to the last and most important reason America keeps losing wars.

War as Symbol

From a military perspective, the Tet offensive was a great victory for American arms. For several years the Americans had been desperate for the Viet Cong to stand up and fight, to stop hiding in the shadows. In February 1968, they did. Initially, they were successful.  For a few hours they captured the US embassy in Saigon.  For a few weeks they conquered the ancient imperial capital of Hue. But soon, the immense firepower of the US army took its toll. The Viet Cong were slaughtered, more than decimated, destroyed as a fighting force for the rest of the war. Tet was a great battlefield success for the US army. It is also the moment the United States lost the Vietnam War.

Vietnam was televised. Civilians watching at home did not see victory, they saw carnage.  They recognised that their President had been lying to them when he suggested that victory would be easy, and they wanted out. 

Fifty thousand Americans died in Vietnam. So did more than 2 million Vietnamese. If war were a numbers game, America would have been victorious. But war is ultimately a matter of will. The North Vietnamese were willing to suffer more than the Americans were, because victory was more important to them.

Lyndon Johnson only went to war because he feared being accused of “losing” Vietnam by congressional Republicans. Indochina was insignificant to America, important only as a symbol of US resolve, as a message to China and Russia that the US would stand by its allies, no matter the cost.

In 1975, Saigon finally fell. Other than psychologically, the effect on America was negligible. Likewise, in a few years, most Americans won’t know or care who controls Mosul or Helmand or South Waziristan. America lost in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan   primarily because it had no real reason to go to war in the first place, no compelling national interest. Were Canada to invade North Dakota or Mexico to invade California, I suspect the US military and people would find the will to win.  But the American people, wiser than their bellicose elites, ultimately are unwilling to make sacrifices for mere symbols.

War, What is it good For? Absolutely Nothing

In 1910, Norman Angell wrote The Grand Illusion, a long pamphlet suggesting that a general war between the great powers was impossible. Of course, 1914 proved him wrong, and history professors since then have mocked Angell for his mistimed prophecy.  But on a deeper level Angell was just a bit ahead of the curve. He argued that in an intertwined capitalist economy, war was self-destructive. Even the victor would lose.

Angell observed that no German personally profited from the annexation of Alsace in 1870. All land remained in its legitimate owners’ hands. When William conquered Britain, when Cortez conquered Mexico, their soldiers made fortunes. War traditionally was mostly an excuse for plunder. In the modern world, Angell argued, armies slaughtered not prospective slaves but potential customers. Today, in the developed world, war is pointless. China needs America to buy its manufactured goods. America needs China to buy its government debt. No geopolitical dispute can trump their symbiotic ties.

For the developed nations today, going to war is more a signifier than anything else. If their primary interest was oil, American diplomats would have told Saddam to grant exclusive contracts to select oil companies and he would have gladly complied in order to avoid invasion. But Bush, Cheney et al weren’t really interested in Iraq’s oil but rather in an opportunity to demonstrate America’s awesome military power, in order to cow the rest of the Middle East and the world beyond. It didn’t work out as they had hoped.

Had Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen been able to post YouTube videos of the horrific and pointless slaughter on the western front in World War 1, the British public would have sued for peace. In a democracy, with a free media, the horrors of war are a hard sell, especially when war serves little purpose other than to make the country or its leaders look tough. The most fundamental reason America’s huge military can’t win wars is that it doesn’t need to.

http://www.pieria.co.uk/articles/why_the_worlds_biggest_military_keeps_losing_wars
116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bill for federalizing CCW in some respects on: February 18, 2015, 07:50:30 AM
       

        From the Patriot Post:

        Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is re-introducing the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act to allow gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring their firearms to any other state with concealed carry laws. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some version of concealed carry in place, but the laws and reciprocity vary significantly from one state to the next -- a patchwork that has landed law-abiding citizens in trouble for years.

        "The current patchwork of state and local laws is confusing for even the most conscientious and well-informed concealed carry permit holders," explained Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. "This confusion often leads to law-abiding gun owners running afoul of the law when they exercise their right to self-protection while traveling or temporarily living away from home."

        The most prominent recent example of this is the case of Shaneen Allen, a single mother from Pennsylvania threatened with 10 years in jail for inadvertently bringing a concealed gun into New Jersey. Fortunately, sanity prevailed in that instance. But this type of case will only become more common in the coming years now that every state has a concealed carry law and the legal purchase of firearms is on the rise.

        Cornyn said his legislation seeks to eliminate these "gotcha moments," but, naturally, the gun control crowd is warning of the apocalypse.

        Michael Bloomberg's gun-grabbing group, Everytown for Gun Safety, released a report on concealed carry reciprocity, claiming, "Some states do thorough criminal background checks on applicants, while other states have such ineffective permitting systems that they inadvertently issue permits to felons." Everytown and other anti-Second Amendment groups argue this bill will negate strict gun control laws in favor of states with weaker laws in place.

        It's almost comical to see the Left fly the flag of federalism. Leftist dogma dictates all power belongs to the central government -- health care, school lunches, same-sex marriage, etc. But this time they have found a convenient use for states' rights by arguing that it's wrong for Washington to establish a uniform system for recognizing the gun laws of other states.

        Leftist hypocrisy aside, Cornyn believes such a scenario is not possible under his proposed legislation. The bill upholds laws currently in place in individual states by providing that weapons conceal-carried by one state's residents must be carried in the same manner as residents in the host state. The legislation also does not allow concealed carry in states that do not allow the practice for their own residents. This last point seems irrelevant considering all states currently have concealed-carry, but it does signal the bill is not designed to roll back or in any way change existing state laws.

        The federal government will not be empowered to force a national minimum concealed-carry standard under this bill. It will merely protect state residents from being unduly harassed by other states with stricter concealed carry laws.

        The bill likely passes constitutional muster on grounds that no state can violate the rights guaranteed by the Bill of the Rights or the 14th Amendment. But there is a difference of opinion about which constitutional clause is the best vehicle. Some say the Commerce Clause offers the best argument because it is in the federal government's interest to see that citizens can freely engage in interstate travel and commerce. If citizens fear undue punishment or harassment in certain states because of unreciprocated concealed-carry laws, then travel and commerce between states will be deterred.

        The Commerce Clause is too often used to justify ever more regulatory power in the hands of the federal government, and thus many conservatives argue the Full Faith and Credit clause is more appropriate here.

        According to the Constitution: "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."

        Consider a driver's license. Any state's driver's license allows its holder to drive in any other state, subject to the laws of the state in which he or she is driving. Concealed carry reciprocity already works in a similar manner and Cornyn's bill wouldn't change that.

        The anti-Second Amendment crowd doesn't want to see Cornyn's concealed carry reciprocity bill pass because it will further confirm what they already fear -- they are losing the gun control fight. A large majority of Americans embrace the right to possess firearms. And it is a right, not a privilege.

        The leftist argument that Cornyn's bill will ultimately lead to a loosening of concealed carry restrictions in certain states is not entirely off base. It may very well do that, since the loosening of gun laws in this country has been trending for at least 20 years with positive results. That trend will likely continue, no matter the fate of Cornyn's bill.


117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia and Ukraine economically intertwined on: February 18, 2015, 07:46:48 AM
Summary

Despite Russia's annexation of Crimea and fighting in Ukraine's east, Ukraine and Russia remain economically intertwined. Kiev has lobbied Western governments to impose sanctions on Russian companies and advocated reducing dependence on Russia natural gas imports. However, Ukraine's banking and energy sectors are tied to Russia, giving the Kremlin several options with which to influence Kiev.
Analysis

Russia and Ukraine have substantial trade ties in addition to closely integrated industrial sectors. Before the crisis began, Russia provided 6.8 percent of foreign direct investment in Ukraine, though the real figure may be higher. Formally, 33.4 percent of FDI to Ukraine in 2013 came from Cyprus, raising the possibility that Russian investment has passed through Cypriot banks and corporations. In 2014, with the onset of the crisis, the share of both Russian and Cypriot FDI flows to Ukraine decreased to 5.9 percent and 29.9 percent, respectively. At the same time, German FDI flows to Ukraine increased to 12.5 percent from only 10.9 percent a year earlier.

Moreover, Russian firms such as Rosneft and Lukoil were active in Ukraine before hostilities broke out. Fighting in the east and pressure from the new, pro-Western authorities, however, has led some Russian firms to cut back on their operations. In July 2014, Lukoil sold one of its subsidiaries, Lukoil-Ukraine CFI, which controlled 240 filling stations in Ukraine, to Austrian company AMIC Energy Management.

Ukraine's banking sector is still closely connected to Russia without these investments. Ukraine's fifth-largest bank in terms of total assets is Prominvestbank, a subsidiary of Russia's Vnesheconombank. Moreover, subsidiaries of Russia's Sberbank, Alfa-Bank and VTB Bank constitute Ukraine's eighth-, ninth-, and 10th-largest banks, respectively. Together these Ukrainian subsidiaries hold over $6 billion in assets. Because the Russian state owns Vnesheconombank and is a majority shareholder in Sberbank and VTB, the Kremlin indirectly controls a significant portion of Ukraine's banking sector. According to Ukraine's Finance Ministry, in the beginning of 2015, Ukraine's total direct and guaranteed debt to the Russian state and Russian banks totaled over $4 billion, the equivalent of about 12 percent of the country's external debt.

However, Russia's own banking sector has experienced difficulties over the past month. Some banks, including VTB, are even seeking state aid, motivating the Kremlin to avoid using its banks to destabilize Ukraine's banking sector. Still, Russia's strong presence does give the Kremlin another opportunity to influence the country's financial markets and pressure Kiev.

In addition to banking, Ukraine's energy sector is also closely tied to Russia. VS Energy International, a Russian firm, owns stakes in eight of Ukraine's 27 regional energy supplier companies, including power distributors in the Odessa and Kiev regions. Electricity shortages resulting from the loss of some of Ukraine's coal resources have led the country to begin importing electricity from Russia as well to fill the projected 10 percent shortfall. Indeed, in late December, Ukrainian energy company Ukrinterenergo signed a one-year contract to purchase up to 1,500 megawatts from Russia (Ukraine currently uses the total 26,000 megawatts it generates). With Russian firms controlling about 30 percent of Ukraine's regional power distribution companies and beginning to export electricity to the country, the Kremlin is positioned to continue playing a role in Ukraine's energy sector.

Kiev knows how dependent it is and has made moving away from relying on Russian natural gas a top priority. Ukraine is buying natural gas reverse flows from Slovakia and has purchased supplies from Poland and Hungary in the past. Also, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced Feb. 14 that his country would borrow $1 billion in order to build up new natural gas and oil reserves.

But Ukraine will have to continue relying on Russia because Slovakia, Poland and Hungary are unable to provide sufficient natural gas supplies to meet demand during winter. Furthermore, the temporary deal between Ukraine's Naftogaz and Russia's Gazprom is set to expire at the end of March. Kiev will have to come to at least another temporary agreement with Gazprom before the summer months when Ukraine must begin filling up its storage facilities in preparation for winter.

On the surface, it appears the crisis has lessened Ukraine's economic and financial ties to Russia. The truth, however, is that Russia is still a significant player in the country's banking and energy sectors. In addition, it is maintaining its long-standing trade and industry ties. Moscow will continue using the subsidiaries of Russian firms, as well as Russian exporters, to apply pressure to Kiev and maintain influence within Ukraine's struggling economy. Nevertheless, Russia's own economic vulnerabilities to the West persist and will impact how the Kremlin wields its leverage over Ukraine.
118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / REcasting the East-West Dialogue on: February 18, 2015, 07:39:23 AM

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Recasting the East-West Dialogue
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February 18, 2015 | 09:01 GMT
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By Jay Ogilvy

At a crucial turning point in his book, An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World, Pankaj Mishra includes a long speech by one of his friends, Vinod. Mishra asks his friend about a picture of Vinod's sister, Sujata, whose in-laws, disappointed with her dowry, drenched her in kerosene and burned her alive. Vinod's impassioned reply takes up fully eight pages of Mishra's book. One paragraph of that long speech:

    It is people like Gautama Buddha and Gandhi who have misled us. They have taught us to be passive and resigned. They have told us of the virtuous life; they have told us to deny ourselves in order to be content. But they haven't told us how to live in the real world — the world that grows bigger and bigger and more complex all the time. This is why Vivekananda is important. He could see why the old habits of fatalism and resignation — the habits of village people — wouldn't work any more. He saw that they had made us the slaves of the Muslims and then the British, why these people coming from outside could rule over India for so long. He was totally unsentimental, and he was brutally frank. He told us that we were sunk in tamas, darkness. There was no point in trumpeting our spiritual success, our philosophical wisdom. All that was in the past. It was meant for primitive people. This was now the age of big nations. India was one such nation but it was way behind Europe and America. The West had technology, it had mastered nature, it had exploded nuclear bombs, it had sent people to the moon. When someone asked Gandhi what he thought of western civilization, he made a joke. He said that western civilization would be a good idea. But Vivekananda knew that the West had much to teach us. The first lesson was that we have to be materialists first. We have to learn to love wealth and comfort; we have to grow strong, know how to take pleasure in things, and recognize that there is no virtue in poverty and weakness. We have to know real manhood first. Spirituality comes later, or not at all. Perhaps we don't need it.

I quote Mishra, quoting Vinod, at such length because I think this speech, coming from this source, is the best response I can make to a very thoughtful response to my last column, Mind the Gap. In that column, I described the growing divergence — in Islam and in each of the great civilizations — between those who have "made it" and those who have been left behind. I used the expression "made it" precisely to avoid a callow economism that would value only financial success. But one reader responded:

    One of the reasons certain peoples and cultures might be outperformed or "left behind" is they simply do not define or strive for the same type of "progress." The view of "progress" has become ethnocentric and the western interpretation is clearly the dominant one. 
Whereas in Western society we are taught to strive for economic progress, in the east progress can take non monetary forms such as familial harmony or spiritual ascendancy as these are valued at least as much as economic prosperity.

Yes, there's a danger of wielding an ethnocentric measuring rod of progress, which is why I used the willfully ambiguous expression "making it" rather than a more precise one, such as "high GDP per capita." But the charge of ethnocentrism does not stick because, from people including Vinod and Mishra, we are hearing some arguments very similar to mine, made from a very different ethnic center: modern India.

I find it fascinating that Mishra, a relatively young Indian scholar, is able to speak with a tongue that is so profoundly forked between East and West in his fast-growing body of work. The East-West discussion is no longer a comparison of cultures and traditions to find common ground for some universal belief system, as was the work of philosophers such as F.S.C. Northrop and religious historians such as Huston Smith. Nor is it a matter of fleeing one set of customs for another, forsaking the fallen gods of one's elders and seeking elsewhere in a kind of grass-is-greener syndrome. I reference the procession of journeyers to the East, from Lawrence of Arabia to the Beatles.

Now we're beyond all that. Figures such as Mishra represent a new generation of writers who are integrating East and West in ways that take the dialectic of sameness and otherness through new and different cycles of shock and recognition.
From the Ruins of Empire

Modernization, colonialism, industrialization, globalization, Westernization — these are huge forces and dynamics that have shaken Asian cultures to their ancient foundations. As Mishra puts it in From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia:

    The much-heralded shift of economic power from the West to the East may or may not happen, but new perspectives have certainly opened up on world history. For most people in Europe and America, the history of the twentieth century is still largely defined by the two world wars and the long nuclear stand-off with Soviet Communism. But it is now clearer that the central event of the last century for the majority of the world's population was the intellectual and political awakening of Asia and its emergence from the ruins of both Asian and European empires. To acknowledge this is to understand the world not only as it exists today but also how it is continuing to be remade not so much in the image of the West as in accordance with the aspirations and longings of former subject peoples.

The shift in perspectives from that of the rulers to that of the ruled reveals a history — past, present and future — quite different from those written by Western scholars. But the perspective of Asian intellectuals is riven with contradiction: According to Mishra, they want to hold on to their religious and cultural traditions, and yet they cannot stand up to the West without adopting its ways in place of their own.

From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia follows the careers of several Asian intellectuals who wrestled with the choice of whether to Westernize or not. Some of the names are familiar: Gandhi, Ataturk, Tagore. But some, such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, are new to me. According to Mishra, "It is impossible to imagine, for instance, that the recent protests and revolutions in the Arab world would have been possible without the intellectual and political foundation laid by al-Afghani's assimilation of Western ideas and his rethinking of Muslim traditions." If that judgment is anywhere near correct, al-Afghani merits more consideration.

So what are some of the intellectual and political foundations laid by al-Afghani? And how do they put a new spin on the East-West dialogue of old? "He advocated both nationalism and pan-Islamism; he lamented the intolerance of Islam; he evoked its great glories in the past; he called for Muslim unity; he also asked Muslims to work with Hindus, Christians and Jews, and did so himself." The dilemmas facing al-Afghani were so deep there seemed no way of resolving them short of working both sides of several streets as each new country and each new situation demanded.

Al-Afghani got around. He spent almost two years in Istanbul before being expelled in 1871. Why? "Indian Muslims harassed by the British, and Muslim Tatars ill-treated by the Russians, were beginning to call for the Ottoman sultan to assume leadership of the Muslim world and declare jihad (holy war) on infidels." But pan-Islamism was in its infancy and al-Afghani's efforts in Istanbul were unsuccessful. In the late 1870s, al-Afghani's career as an outside agitator took him to Egypt where he gave speeches in Cairo and Alexandria in 1878 before being expelled back to India in 1879.

How does al-Afghani's legacy, as opportunistic and inconsistent as it may be, put a new spin on the East-West dialogue? For one thing, al-Afghani is not a Gandhi. He did not preach non-violence. For another, he was not a Tagore, not a vividly spiritual man, not a sage. As such, he upsets the stereotype that would oppose the spiritual East to the materialistic West — the very stereotype invoked by that thoughtful and welcome respondent to my last column, the very stereotype so passionately rejected by Mishra's friend, Vinod. With al-Afghani's enthusiasm for an Islamic Reformation, and a corresponding separation of church from state, he holds out some hope for a politically moderate Islam. But don't get your hopes up too fast: The wounds and humiliations of empire struck so deep in al-Afghani's soul that his deepest and most abiding commitment was to anti-imperialism. It is a sentiment alive and well in the Arab Spring and in other recent conflicts across the East. Perhaps the contradictions lived by al-Afghani and expressed by Mishra will lead us to a deeper understanding of modern conflicts in the Muslim world and of the East-West dialogue at the heart of it all.
119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Population decline and the great economic reversal on: February 18, 2015, 06:58:03 AM

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Population Decline and the Great Economic Reversal
Geopolitical Weekly
February 17, 2015 | 09:52 GMT
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By George Friedman

In recent weeks, we have been focusing on Greece, Germany, Ukraine and Russia. All are still burning issues. But in every case, readers have called my attention to what they see as an underlying and even defining dimension of all these issues — if not right now, then soon. That dimension is declining population and the impact it will have on all of these countries. The argument was made that declining populations will generate crises in these and other countries, undermining their economies and national power. Sometimes we need to pause and move away from immediate crises to broader issues. Let me start with some thoughts from my book The Next 100 Years.
Reasons for the Population Decline

There is no question but that the populations of most European countries will decline in the next generation, and in the cases of Germany and Russia, the decline will be dramatic. In fact, the entire global population explosion is ending. In virtually all societies, from the poorest to the wealthiest, the birthrate among women has been declining. In order to maintain population stability, the birthrate must remain at 2.1 births per woman. Above that, and the population rises; below that, it falls. In the advanced industrial world, the birthrate is already substantially below 2.1. In middle-tier countries such as Mexico or Turkey, the birthrate is falling but will not reach 2.1 until between 2040 and 2050. In the poorest countries, such as Bangladesh or Bolivia, the birthrate is also falling, but it will take most of this century to reach 2.1.

The process is essentially irreversible. It is primarily a matter of urbanization. In agricultural and low-level industrial societies, children are a productive asset. Children can be put to work at the age of 6 doing agricultural work or simple workshop labor. Children become a source of income, and the more you have the better. Just as important, since there is no retirement plan other than family in such societies, a large family can more easily support parents in old age.

In a mature urban society, the economic value of children declines. In fact, children turn from instruments of production into objects of massive consumption. In urban industrial society, not only are the opportunities for employment at an early age diminished, but the educational requirements also expand dramatically. Children need to be supported much longer, sometimes into their mid-20s. Children cost a tremendous amount of money with limited return, if any, for parents. Thus, people have fewer children. Birth control merely provided the means for what was an economic necessity. For most people, a family of eight children would be a financial catastrophe. Therefore, women have two children or fewer, on average. As a result, the population contracts. Of course, there are other reasons for this decline, but urban industrialism is at the heart of it.

There are those who foresee economic disaster in this process. As someone who was raised in a world that saw the population explosion as leading to economic disaster, I would think that the end of the population boom would be greeted with celebration. But the argument is that the contraction of the population, particularly during the transitional period before the older generations die off, will leave a relatively small number of workers supporting a very large group of retirees, particularly as life expectancy in advanced industrial countries increases. In addition, the debts incurred by the older generation would be left to the smaller, younger generation to pay off. Given this, the expectation is major economic dislocation.  (MARC: This makes sense to me)  In addition, there is the view that a country's political power will contract with the population, based on the assumption that the military force that could be deployed — and paid for — with a smaller population would contract.

The most obvious solution to this problem is immigration. The problem is that Japan and most European countries have severe cultural problems integrating immigrants. The Japanese don't try, for the most part, and the Europeans who have tried — particularly with migrants from the Islamic world — have found it difficult. The United States also has a birthrate for white women at about 1.9, meaning that the Caucasian population is contracting, but the African-American and Hispanic populations compensate for that. In addition, the United States is an efficient manager of immigration, despite current controversies.

Two points must be made on immigration. First, the American solution of relying on immigration will mean a substantial change in what has been the historical sore point in American culture: race. The United States can maintain its population only if the white population becomes a minority in the long run. The second point is that some of the historical sources of immigration to the United States, particularly Mexico, are exporting fewer immigrants. As Mexico moves up the economic scale, emigration to the United States will decline. Therefore, the third tier of countries where there is still surplus population will have to be the source for immigrants. Europe and Japan have no viable model for integrating migrants.
The Effects of Population on GDP

But the real question is whether a declining population matters. Assume that there is a smooth downward curve of population, with it decreasing by 20 percent. If the downward curve in gross domestic product matched the downward curve in population, per capita GDP would be unchanged. By this simplest measure, the only way there would be a problem is if GDP fell more than population, or fell completely out of sync with the population, creating negative and positive bubbles. That would be destabilizing.

But there is no reason to think that GDP would fall along with population. The capital base of society, its productive plant as broadly understood, will not dissolve as population declines. Moreover, assume that population fell but GDP fell less — or even grew. Per capita GDP would rise and, by that measure, the population would be more prosperous than before.

One of the key variables mitigating the problem of decreasing population would be continuing advances in technology to increase productivity. We can call this automation or robotics, but growths in individual working productivity have been occurring in all productive environments from the beginning of industrialization, and the rate of growth has been intensifying. Given the smooth and predictable decline in population, there is no reason to believe, at the very least, that GDP would not fall less than population. In other words, with a declining population in advanced industrial societies, even leaving immigration out as a factor, per capita GDP would be expected to grow.
Changes in the Relationship Between Labor and Capital

A declining population would have another and more radical impact. World population was steady until the middle of the 16th century. The rate of growth increased in about 1750 and moved up steadily until the beginning of the 20th century, when it surged. Put another way, beginning with European imperialism and culminating in the 20th century, the population has always been growing. For the past 500 years or so, the population has grown at an increasing rate. That means that throughout the history of modern industrialism and capitalism, there has always been a surplus of labor. There has also been a shortage of capital in the sense that capital was more expensive than labor by equivalent quanta, and given the constant production of more humans, supply tended to depress the price of labor.

For the first time in 500 years, this situation is reversing itself. First, fewer humans are being born, which means the labor force will contract and the price of all sorts of labor will increase. This has never happened before in the history of industrial man. In the past, the scarce essential element has been capital. But now capital, understood in its precise meaning as the means of production, will be in surplus, while labor will be at a premium. The economic plant in place now and created over the next generation will not evaporate. At most, it is underutilized, and that means a decline in the return on capital. Put in terms of the analog, money, it means that we will be entering a period where money will be cheap and labor increasingly expensive.

The only circumstance in which this would not be the case would be a growth in productivity so vast that it would leave labor in surplus. Of course if that happened, then we would be entering a revolutionary situation in which the relationship between labor and income would have to shift. Assuming a more incremental, if intensifying, improvement in productivity, it would still leave surplus on the capital side and a shortage in labor, sufficient to force the price of money down and the price of labor up.

That would mean that in addition to rising per capita GDP, the actual distribution of wealth would shift. We are currently in a period where the accumulation of wealth has shifted dramatically into fewer hands, and the gap between the upper-middle class and the middle class has also widened. If the cost of money declined and the price of labor increased, the wide disparities would shift, and the historical logic of industrial capitalism would be, if not turned on its head, certainly reformulated.

We should also remember that the three inputs into production are land, labor and capital. The value of land, understood in the broader sense of real estate, has been moving in some relationship to population. With a decline in population, the demand for land would contract, lowering the cost of housing and further increasing the value of per capita GDP.

The path to rough equilibrium will be rocky and fraught with financial crisis. For example, the decline in the value of housing will put the net worth of the middle and upper classes at risk, while adjusting to a world where interest rates are perpetually lower than they were in the first era of capitalism would run counter to expectations and therefore lead financial markets down dark alleys. The mitigating element to this is that the decline in population is transparent and highly predictable. There is time for homeowners, investors and everyone else to adjust their expectations.

This will not be the case in all countries. The middle- and third-tier countries will be experiencing their declines after the advanced countries will have adjusted — a further cause of disequilibrium in the system. And countries such as Russia, where population is declining outside the context of a robust capital infrastructure, will see per capita GDP decline depending on the price of commodities like oil. Populations are falling even where advanced industrialism is not in place, and in areas where only urbanization and a decline of preindustrial agriculture are in place the consequences are severe. There are places with no safety net, and Russia is one of those places.

The argument I am making here is that population decline will significantly transform the functioning of economies, but in the advanced industrial world it will not represent a catastrophe — quite the contrary. Perhaps the most important change will be that where for the past 500 years bankers and financiers have held the upper hand, in a labor-scarce society having pools of labor to broker will be the key. I have no idea what that business model will look like, but I have no doubt that others will figure that out.
120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Does this logic apply to the Middle East as well? on: February 18, 2015, 06:36:01 AM
 Why a U.N. Intervention Would Fail to Help Libya
Geopolitical Diary
February 18, 2015 | 02:00 GMT
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Almost four years to the day after the Libyan uprising began, the U.N. Security Council will meet to determine whether it should intervene militarily in the beleaguered North African country.

On Tuesday, Egypt, Libya's eastern neighbor, became the latest in a growing number of countries to implore the international body to act after Islamic State militants killed 21 Egyptian Copts in the Libyan city of Sirte. Egypt, situated so close to Libya, is naturally concerned about instability to the west. But since Mohammed Morsi, the former Muslim Brotherhood-backed president, was removed from office in 2013, its position on the matter has been fairly consistent: It has provided limited logistical assistance to actors who can advance its interests. Likely, it has done so with the help of its main backers, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

But Egypt certainly is not the only country put ill at ease by what Libya has become. Europe, too, has cause for alarm. As a former colonial power, France has deep-rooted interests in the region surrounding Libya, and Italy, Libya's former colonizer, has extensive economic interests in the country's oil industry. And both, but especially Italy, have struggled to manage the flow of illegal immigrants from across the Mediterranean.
 

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Other countries farther afield broadly agree that Libyan instability poses a significant security risk not just to Libyans and neighboring states but also to international interests. But they cannot agree on how to create stability from the chaos. After all, there is no central government in Libya, let alone a national military force. Libya's problems with militancy are symptomatic of its disunity, not the cause of it. And so international efforts meant to route jihadist groups such as the Islamic State will do little to heal the political, ideological and tribal wounds that have torn Libyan society apart since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Regional leaders like Algeria and Egypt understand as much and are therefore disinclined to take a bigger role in rebuilding Libya. Even if they wanted to help, they probably could not afford it. Those who could afford it — the European Union, NATO and the broader international community — have yet to volunteer for the job. Egypt is content to continue direct, albeit limited, involvement.

But not everyone agrees with Cairo's approach. Qatar, Algeria and Turkey have strongly advocated negotiation as a solution to the Libyan problem — an approach that has also received support from the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom, which have worked behind the scenes to monitor militant groups and to encourage reconciliation talks between the competing governments in Tripoli and Tobruk. Washington has even publicly warned against unilateral airstrikes, since they may make the security environment even worse.

And as the killing of the Egyptian Copts shows, direct attacks also run the risk of retaliation against those who meddle in Libyan affairs. The Egyptian military has since deployed soldiers throughout the country to defend key infrastructure and population centers from potential reprisal attacks. (Of course, Egyptian citizens have long been the target of Libyan militants, organized crime groups and local tribal elements for a variety of "offenses," including proselytization by Christian Copts and competition for jobs in a region ravaged by the Arab Spring uprisings.)

At best, the U.N. Security Council, which will meet Feb. 18, can condemn the instability in Libya and perhaps even authorize a military operation like the one underway in Iraq and Syria. But the United States will be only a marginal participant in such an operation, and indigenous Middle Eastern militaries probably cannot handle the logistical and economic demands of maintaining an open-ended air campaign against Libyan militants. In any case, Washington probably would not trust Cairo and its regional backers to lead the operation on their own — in the past, they have targeted more moderate Islamist groups and political opposition groups. Even France, which has worked closely with Arab states in pushing for a U.N. Security Council meeting on Libya, has sought to bring together an international coalition to avoid shouldering all the responsibility on its own (as it did in Mali in 2012).

Ultimately, the international community is most likely to leave Libya to its own devices, waiting to work with whoever wins the conflict. Tomorrow's council meeting may offer a solution to the problem posed by the Islamic State in Libya, but it will fail to address the broader challenges brought on by four years of instability.
121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science and Military Issues on: February 17, 2015, 09:39:50 PM
My primary pistol too, though as a subject of Los Angeles I am not allowed to carry here.

122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 17, 2015, 09:37:38 PM
ISIS has how many troops right now?  40,000? Scattered over how much terrain?

How many does Egypt have?  How many does Jordan have?  House of Saud?  UAE?  Kuwait?
123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Putin cracks the Atlantic Alliance on: February 17, 2015, 12:04:04 PM
Putin Begins to Crack the Atlantic Alliance
The British are on the outs, and German elites float a European Treaty Organization to replace NATO.
By
John Vinocur
Feb. 16, 2015 7:30 p.m. ET
163 COMMENTS

While the Germans, seconded by their French character witnesses, negotiated an ethereal Ukraine cease fire with Vladimir Putin in Minsk, Belarus, last week, Britain was kept informed by regular messages from the conference room.

It was a drip-feed from an arena of bad history in the making to a distant sideline. Call it either a gesture of consideration and respect, or a sign of the largely self-inflicted downgrading of a onetime Great Game player. Whatever, here was Britain home alone, although in no sense in the strategically assertive manner of Benjamin Disraeli ’s notion of Splendid Isolation.
David Cameron ENLARGE
David Cameron Photo: Bloomberg News

The Minsk deal was “terrible,” a senior U.K. official told me afterward, with holes in it so gaping as to allow Russia to drive tanks unhampered through an open Ukrainian border for next to forever. There might be some regrets that London wasn’t there as a “practitioner,” the official said, “but the deal was so bad that we now see our distance as an advantage.”

In theory, after the Obama administration outsourced the response to the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine to Angela Merkel ’s Germany, only U.N. Security Council member Britain was (very theoretically) left in Europe to take sides and name names. But London chose not to press for an active role. Ms. Merkel then signaled that Germany’s “strategic patience” with Mr. Putin’s asymmetrical war could last for decades.

As a result, over the course of the past two weeks Mr. Putin got an up-close lesson in Western halfheartedness.

French President François Hollande, as Germany’s sidekick in meetings with Mr. Putin in Moscow and Minsk—Ms. Merkel didn’t want it to go down as a German-Russian deal—exclaimed, “I don’t want to say anything about the responsibilities of one or the other” combatants. He added, “Will someone please explain to me what the difference is between an offensive weapon and a defensive weapon?”

Here goes. Offensive weapon: a Russian tank. Defensive: a Ukrainian soldier with an antitank guided missile, one of the kinds of arms Barack Obama is fussing about delivering to the government in Kiev.

Britain’s response was a “no” to supplying Ukraine with defensive lethal weapons, coupled with a statement by Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond that, “We’re happy that the Germans have taken the lead.”

This isn’t Britain at its bravest, cleverest or most famously resourceful. Its slide has been accelerated by a U.S. administration that hung Britain out to dry by abandoning its promised willingness to come on board with London on a more muscular approach to Syria in 2012-13. Since then, Mr. Obama’s steadfastness has been regarded warily by some British officials.

A more immediate explanation for this effaced approach is the national election May 7, in which Prime Minister David Cameron ’s Conservative Party sees the prospect of a fragmented vote requiring the formation of a coalition government.

His strategists don’t want to wander from a single campaign message on the improvement in the British economy. Polls say that foreign affairs aren’t among the top 10 issues of voter concern and that only 17% “think the United Kingdom has a moral responsibility to support popular uprisings against dictators,” a negative measure of potential public engagement on Ukraine.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the British fade is that it bolsters Mr. Putin’s conviction that he is succeeding in splitting apart the Atlantic Alliance. A frequently silent, self-involved, scarcely active and less goading Britain, one obviously less confident in its trans-Atlantic instincts and its trans-Atlantic ties, reinforces the Russian idea that it really can reverse the post-Soviet security order in Europe.

Britain ought to be fighting this out loud. In Germany, echoing the Gerhard Schröder years, the weekly Die Zeit made reference without particular alarm to a Europe now “wrestling” with its “emancipation” from the U.S. Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a newspaper close to the chancellor, last week referred to Ms. Merkel as a “mediator” between the U.S. and Russia, a notion she refutes but that has wide appeal in Germany.

Sueddeutsche’s chief editor, Kurt Kister, wrote on Saturday that “the Americans hardly play a role anymore” in Europe and recommended its countries begin thinking of setting up a “European Treaty Organization or EUTO.”

That’s crackpot stuff. How could a Europe without America ever muster a credible nuclear deterrent against Russia? But there’s the potential for a rewrite of Europe’s security treaties lurking out there that could make for trouble. The German foreign ministry of Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the Russians want “to discuss” such a rewrite. What could Britain be saying but isn’t?

Malcolm Rifkind, who is on a German-appointed panel of “eminent persons” to begin that discussion, gave a glancing but interesting answer via a question to Ms. Merkel at the recent Munich Security Conference. The former Conservative foreign and defense minister asked if her no-military-solution thesis on Ukraine could ever be successful without the threat of force being attached. She dodged the essence of the question.

Mr. Rifkind, in a later conversation, saw the possibility of an altered tone from a re-elected Conservative-led government in Britain. He said, “A change can come if there’s an American-led policy that’s less ambiguous and unabashedly robust.”

Good to hear it said. But he shouldn’t hold his breath.


124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science and Military Issues on: February 17, 2015, 11:51:31 AM
Shortchanging Missile Defense
The need is urgent as nuclear threats proliferate.

Updated Feb. 16, 2015 10:30 p.m. ET


Within days of President Obama releasing his fiscal 2016 defense budget this month, Pakistan tested a nuclear-capable Ra’ad short-range missile, Russia announced plans to test a new RS-26 intercontinental ballistic missile, Iran launched a satellite into space and North Korea blasted five antiship missiles into the Sea of Japan. Each volley underscored the bad news that Mr. Obama’s budget again shortchanges U.S. missile defenses.

Of $4 trillion for the federal government overall and $612 billion for defense, Mr. Obama wants $8.1 billion for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency. That’s up from $7.5 billion last year—the first real-dollar increase since 2011—but the overall trend remains downward. Funding is set to drop again after fiscal 2016, leaving missile defense slashed 25% in real dollars over the Obama Presidency.

In 2009 Mr. Obama scrapped U.S. plans to place missile interceptors in Poland and sophisticated X-Band radar in the Czech Republic, a decision announced without warning to Warsaw or Prague. Instead he proposed a new four-phase plan for European missile defense. For the home front, he said he would install only 30 interceptors in Alaska and California, down from the 44 planned by the Bush Administration.

Development of a so-called Multiple Kill Vehicle, intended to overcome decoy missiles by placing many warheads on a single interceptor, was killed in 2009. The Administration then stripped funding from the Airborne Weapon Laser and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, the two programs aimed at destroying missiles in early-flight “boost” phase, when they are slowest and most vulnerable. Space-based interceptors never got to the drawing board.

Mr. Obama partially changed course in 2013, expanding defenses in Asia and committing to install the 14 additional West Coast interceptors he had scrapped in 2009. Yet he simultaneously cancelled the final phase of the program he had promised for Europe, which would have placed high-speed interceptors in Poland capable of targeting intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Administration began reviewing possible sites for new antimissile systems on the U.S. East Coast, but only after years of Congressional pressure.

“I don’t support a missile defense system,” Mr. Obama said in 2001, when he was old enough to know better but not yet a prominent politician. Many Democrats have held that view since dismissing Ronald Reagan ’s Strategic Defense Initiative. But engineers have proved they can hit a bullet with a bullet: 65 of 81 U.S. antimissile tests have succeeded since 2001, while Israel’s Iron Dome has excelled (aided by U.S. funding).

So Democrats today rarely denounce missile defense outright. Instead they treat it as a bargaining chip with adversaries such as Vladimir Putin . Mr. Putin complained in 2010 that antimissile systems “undermine our nuclear capabilities.” In other words, they hamper Russia’s ability to play the bully with its nukes and missiles. That’s a reason for Washington to invest more in missile defense, yet Team Obama has repeatedly sought to appease Mr. Putin’s objections.

The Administration abandoned the Polish and Czech sites amid its “reset” with the Kremlin and talks over the New Start arms-control treaty. The new U.S. approach was “less threatening” to Russia, a senior Administration official told the Washington Post at the time. Four years later the U.S. again weakened its European antimissile posture because, as another senior official told author David Rothkopf, “it had become an impediment to every area of important cooperation” with Russia, “including both Iran and Syria.”

While the wages of Russian non-cooperation have accumulated from Syria to Ukraine, other threats have advanced. U.S. intelligence officials fear that North Korea may now be able to fit a nuclear warhead on a missile, and the U.S. Navy says China has the world’s “most active and diverse” ballistic-missile program, with increasing ability to target U.S. military assets and cities.

All of this is an opportunity for the new Republican Congress, which could force progress on building an East Coast interceptor site, developing defenses against boost-phase missiles, and deepening cooperation with NATO, Japan, South Korea and Australia. As the forces of disorder spread, missile defense becomes more urgent.
125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Denmark on: February 17, 2015, 11:47:12 AM
http://www.wsj.com/articles/danes-weigh-costs-of-free-speech-as-fear-takes-grip-1424131870
126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Grace Slick on: February 17, 2015, 11:38:30 AM
Happy 75th birthday Grace Slick!!!
127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: ISIS new haven in Libya on: February 17, 2015, 11:36:59 AM
Islamic State Secures New Haven in Libya
A country torn by civil war provides fertile ground for the extremist group—right on Europe’s doorstep
By Yaroslav Trofimov
Feb. 16, 2015 7:10 p.m. ET

Two rival governments in Libya have fought an increasingly bloody civil war since last summer, as the world paid little attention. While they battled for control of the country’s oil wealth, a third force—Islamic State—took advantage of the chaos to grow stronger.
Analysis

The beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by Islamic State followers has finally drawn the global spotlight to the group’s rising clout in Libya, which not long ago was touted as a successful example of Western intervention. The killings prompted Egyptian airstrikes on Islamic State strongholds in Libya and spurred calls for more active international involvement in what is fast becoming a failed state on Europe’s doorstep.

The Libyan affiliate of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has, in fact, been spreading its sway for months. First it established an area of control last fall in and around the eastern city of Derna, a historical center of Libyan jihadists. Recently, it also took over parts of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, on the central coast, setting up a radio station there and sending Islamic morality patrols onto the streets.

All the while, the two rival governments of Libya focused on combatting one another, each supported by regional powers. Both preferred to largely ignore the influx of foreign jihadists forming new alliances with local extremists—and their unification under Islamic State’s banner.

“As all the attention of the two sides was on fighting the other side, this kind of group prospered in the political and military void,” said Karim Mezran, a Libya expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “There are no good guys or bad guys there—both sides have been acting in bad faith.”

Libya isn’t the only place outside Syria and Iraq where the extremist group has established affiliates, largely by absorbing homegrown jihadist groups into its project of world domination and religious war until the total triumph of Islam. There are also Islamic State “provinces” in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, in Yemen, and in so-called Khorasan, a region straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Islamic State’s slickly produced video of the slaughter of the Egyptian Copts, released on Sunday, concluded with the promise to conquer Rome, the historic center of Christendom. That threat is bound to reinforce existing pressure in countries such as France and Italy for a military intervention to stave off the complete collapse of Libya, which is just across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy.

“The situation in Libya has been out of control for three years,” Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi cautioned in a television interview after the video’s release. “We shouldn’t go from total indifference to hysteria.”

Libya has been unstable since Gadhafi’s ouster and killing in 2011, but it descended into all-out civil war last summer.

One side is the old parliament, elected in 2012 and dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. It includes militias from the conservative city of Misrata, a key force in the revolution against the Gadhafi regime. That parliament, known as the General National Congress, was replaced in last summer’s elections by another legislature, the House of Representatives, dominated by more secular and nationalist forces.

While the international community has recognized the new House of Representatives as the legitimate new authority in Libya, the GNC refused to accept its electoral defeat. Militias affiliated with the GNC last summer drove the new administration out of Tripoli to the eastern city of Tobruk, triggering what soon became an all-out war that destroyed the Tripoli airport and valuable oil infrastructure.

As the West was distracted by Islamic State’s blitz through Syria and Iraq last year, regional powers unleashed a proxy war in Libya. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power in his own country in 2013, threw his weight behind the Tobruk government, arming and assisting it. So did Egypt’s regional allies, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, Turkey and Qatar—supporters of Islamist causes around the region—rallied behind Tripoli, as did Sudan. It was only last month that a cease-fire in Libya was reached, following United Nations-sponsored talks in Geneva.

By then, however, it may have already been too late to stop Islamic State’s spread, especially as the Tripoli administration has long played down the threat posed by Islamist militants. On Jan. 27, Islamic State attacked the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, killing several foreigners and showcasing its ability to operate in the heart of the capital. Amazingly, the Tripoli administration’s reaction to that outrage was to allege that the massacre was a provocation carried out by its Tobruk rivals and Egypt. Since then, most of the last Westerners in town left Tripoli.

The latest Islamic State attack, on the Coptic Egyptians, was intended to directly draw Egypt into the Libyan conflict, said Khalil al-Anani, an Egyptian scholar of Islamist movements at Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Sisi, whose takeover in 2013 was widely popular among Egypt’s Coptic minority, has positioned himself as a defender of the country’s Christians; last month, he became the first Egyptian president to visit a Coptic church on Christmas.

But his task of thwarting Islamic State grows more complicated. His army already faces a deadly Islamic State insurgency in the eastern Sinai Peninsula, losing hundreds of soldiers over the past two years.

“ISIS wants to drain the Egyptian army,” Mr. Anani said. “Egypt now has ISIS on both sides. They did not succeed in Sinai, so how will they do it in Libya?”
128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Rubio on: February 17, 2015, 11:28:54 AM
In the early 2016 Republican presidential jockeying—as the field of potential candidates grows, and as Jeb Bush , Mitt Romney , Scott Walker and Rand Paul grab the recent headlines—an interesting development is unfolding just beyond the limelight: In the eyes of many in the party, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has quietly moved into the upper tier of that long list of potential candidates.

He gave a well-reviewed performance at a recent gathering of donors organized by the conservative Koch brothers. He has raised eyebrows by securing the services of Jim Merrill, who directed both of Mitt Romney’s presidential runs in New Hampshire, and the support of George Seay, a Texas financier who raised money for then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry last time around. He has laid a substantive groundwork with a series of detailed policy speeches over the past year.


More intriguing, perhaps, there is little indication that the likely entry of Mr. Bush, the man seen as Mr. Rubio’s political mentor, is going to deter him from proceeding. Over the weekend, Mr. Rubio happened to be in Iowa, home of the nation’s initial nominating caucuses, signing copies of what looks an awful lot like a campaign book of policy ideas. In the next week he’s off to the early-primary states of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to do the same. A springtime presidential announcement seems likely.

All of which raises the question: In a field populated with other senators and an even bigger figure from the state of Florida, what is the case for Marco Rubio?

It starts with the obvious: Mr. Rubio is a bright and articulate politician with the kind of broadly conservative credentials required in the Republican Party circa 2016. And his ability to break out in fluent Spanish in a news conference or a Telemundo interview gives him a chance to reach a Hispanic audience that keeps slipping away from the GOP.

Still, those attributes aren’t sufficient. For Mr. Rubio, success also depends on the magic of political timing—that is, the chance that he has arrived offering precisely what the market happens to be demanding.

On that front, his case rests heavily on two predicates. The first is that Republicans, sufficiently disillusioned with the political establishment, are ready to break tradition by trying somebody who is newer and younger—and who hasn’t waited his turn.

This, of course, is what the Democrats did in picking Barack Obama in 2008. But it isn’t what Republicans tend to do. The GOP normally picks the candidate whose turn has come, and usually the one around whom the party’s establishment has coalesced. In 2012, Mr. Romney was the obvious establishment choice, and one who had paid his dues by running once before. George W. Bush was the establishment choice in 2000. Bob Dole , George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon all had been around the block by mounting serious prior candidacies before the party turned the reins over to them.

The Rubio candidacy rests in part on an assumption that the party, like the country more broadly, now has grown ever more disillusioned with the political establishment in recent years. Certainly some strong new forces are coursing through the party. More than half the Republicans in the House have been elected since 2008. A tea-party insurrection has been roiling the GOP since 2009.

And when Mr. Romney raised the possibility that he might return for a third presidential run in 2016, the idea of turning again to such a paragon of the establishment didn’t exactly ignite a wildfire of enthusiasm. Such signs give hope to Rubio forces.

Mr. Rubio’s second asset is the work he has done in the past couple of years developing a voice and a track record on foreign policy. As the economy appears to be improving and global conditions are deteriorating, the premium attached to the ability to maneuver on this front is rising. That’s an area of advantage for Mr. Rubio over governors—say, for example, New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, both of whom had their problems while dipping their toes in foreign waters on recent trips to London.

Those advantages are offset by two significant problems. First, Mr. Rubio’s profile as a 43-year-old with just four years of experience in the Senate is awfully reminiscent of Mr. Obama’s in 2008. Some in the GOP will argue against repeating that experience.

And second, Mr. Rubio will continue to get grief among some in the party for having sponsored a comprehensive immigration reform plan that envisioned an eventual path to legal status for many illegal immigrants.

Those aren’t small obstacles. The question for Mr. Rubio is whether they are trumped by the advantage of good timing.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at jerry.seib@wsj.com

 
129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gov. Scott Walker on: February 17, 2015, 11:25:33 AM
http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/scott-walker-correction-new-york-times-115229.html
130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama's 23 new EOs pertaining to guns on: February 17, 2015, 11:09:46 AM

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/01/16/here-are-the-23-executive-orders-on-gun-safety-signed-today-by-the-president/
131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary, Goldman Sachs, et al on: February 17, 2015, 11:07:22 AM


http://theantimedia.org/crony-hillary-clinton/
132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / General and President Grant and the Jews on: February 17, 2015, 11:05:21 AM
http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/93625/the-jewish-vote?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=f34ca40066-Monday_February_16_20152_16_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-f34ca40066-207194629
133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WMD after all? on: February 17, 2015, 11:01:10 AM


http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/02/16/report-cia-bought-hundreds-of-iraqi-weapons-of-mass-destruction-in-operation-avarice/
134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glen Beck was right on: February 17, 2015, 09:35:44 AM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/02/16/glenn-becks-chilling-warning-world-war-iii-is-coming-and-nobody-will-recognize-it-yet/
135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 17, 2015, 08:53:14 AM
That is more than a year old, and its' prediction remains unfulfilled.
136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ted judge in TX halts Obama's EO. on: February 17, 2015, 01:48:45 AM
Obama Immigration Policy Halted by Federal Judge in Texas
A federal judge in Texas has ordered a halt, at least temporarily, to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, siding with Texas and 25 other states that filed a lawsuit opposing the initiatives.
In an order filed on Monday, the judge, Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, prohibited the Obama administration from carrying out programs the president announced in November that would offer protection from deportation and work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants. The first of those programs was scheduled to start receiving applications on Wednesday.
Judge Hanen, an outspoken critic of the administration on immigration policy, found that the states had satisfied the minimum legal requirements to bring their lawsuit. He said the Obama administration had failed to comply with basic administrative procedures for putting such a sweeping program into effect.
READ MORE »
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/18/us/obama-immigration-policy-halted-by-federal-judge-in-texas.html?emc=edit_na_20150217

137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: February 16, 2015, 07:20:40 PM
A thoughtful piece Doug.
138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Life Star Rescue Drone on: February 16, 2015, 07:08:38 PM
http://gizmodo.com/this-spherical-rescue-drone-is-straight-out-of-star-war-1684664519
139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Superb video: Israel's defensible borders on: February 16, 2015, 05:57:33 PM


https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152377793368717
140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / California: Several items of interest on: February 16, 2015, 05:42:38 PM
http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/
141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BP ordered to release drunken illegal aliens on: February 16, 2015, 01:02:08 PM
http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/obama-orders-border-patrol-to-put-illegal-alien-drunk-drivers-on-the-road/
142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Dual Loyalty Question on: February 16, 2015, 12:52:37 PM
http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/93625/the-jewish-vote?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=f34ca40066-Monday_February_16_20152_16_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-f34ca40066-207194629
143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: February 16, 2015, 11:57:10 AM
Indeed.
144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: On the road to Putinlandia on: February 16, 2015, 09:58:54 AM
by Bernard-Henri Lévy
Feb. 13, 2015 6:59 p.m. ET
372 COMMENTS

The meeting was scheduled for that very evening—the evening before the Minsk summit this week—in Petro Poroshenko’s office at the presidential palace in Kiev. But the moment my colleague Gilles Hertzog and I arrive at the Kiev airport and step on the tarmac, my phone rings.  It is Valeriy Chaly, the Ukrainian president’s deputy chief of staff, who is already in Belarus for the summit.

“Stay where you are. Whatever you do, don’t go into town. I can’t tell you anything on the phone. Protocol is coming to pick you up.”

We sit in a deserted waiting room where a converted duty free is selling bad coffee and bars of the Rohsen chocolate, ubiquitous in Ukraine, on which Petro Poroshenko made his fortune.  After two hours, the security ballet begins—men in black, headsets in the ear, long, ultra-slim briefcase in hand, a routine that several decades in the planet’s hot spots have taught me signifies the imminent arrival of the Boss.

From there, everything moves quickly. The men in black assume battle stations as we charge back onto the tarmac, where a jet sits with its twin engines running. We scramble up the ramp at the rear. A security man leads us to the forward cabin, where Petro Poroshenko is waiting. The Ukrainian president is barely recognizable in his khaki T-shirt, camouflage pants and military boots—but mostly because of an almost worrisome pallor, something that I have not seen on him before.

“Sorry about all the mystery, but except for him”—Mr. Poroshenko gestures to Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, the Ukrainian army’s commander in chief, who is also in uniform—“nobody knows where we’re going. Security reasons. But you’ll see. It’s awful. And I want you as witnesses.”

The flight, headed southeast, lasts an hour.

We are headed to the Donetsk region, where, the president tells me, vicious shelling of a civilian area has just claimed several dozen victims.

The conversation turns to the summit in Minsk, Belarus, where the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine will meet.

“Tomorrow at this time you’ll be face to face with Putin. What are you going to say to him?”

“That I will yield on nothing,” Mr. Poroshenko replies. “That neither Ukraine’s territorial integrity nor its right to Europe are negotiable.”

“And if he persists? If he won’t abandon his idea of federalizing the areas now in the hands of the separatists?”

“Then I’ll walk out and submit the question to public opinion and to the United Nations. We are not Ethiopia in 1935 or Czechoslovakia in 1938 or one of the little nations sacrificed by the great powers at Yalta. We’re not even your friend [Alija] Izetbegovic, who accepted the partition of Bosnia in Dayton.”

I tell him that the difference this time is that France, under François Hollande, is with him. He says he knows that.

I remind him that Germany contracted an ineradicable debt with respect to Ukraine (seven million dead in World War II alone) and that Chancellor Merkel cannot fail to honor it. He nods as if to say that he knows that, too, but is a little less sure of it.

In any event, he feels strongly that his country has paid too dearly for its freedom and independence to accept any form of diktat. “I am hoping with all my heart for a peace agreement, but we are not afraid of war. Didn’t your General de Gaulle say that great people, in dark times, have no better friends than themselves?”

We spend the rest of the flight discussing the formal statement that he will make at the opening of the summit, where the fate of his country will be hanging in the balance. It is a little after 10 p.m. when we land in Kharkov.

About 30 armored vehicles are waiting for us near the plane.

And off we go in convoy across the deserted plains of the Dnieper to Kramatorsk. After three hours of fairly easy going, the last 30 miles are a frozen track rutted by military convoys.

No lights to be seen.

Not a soul stirring.

The chilling atmosphere of a dead city.

And then, suddenly, a clutch of poor people warming themselves around a fire.

Here, the middle of the city had been the target of a Smerch rocket fired from a distance of more than 30 miles in the early afternoon.

Here, and within a radius of about 900 yards, the giant antipersonnel weapon released its rain of minirockets, killing 16 people and wounding 65.

And here I discover another Petro Poroshenko: no longer the military leader from the plane; still less the billionaire president that I accompanied to the Élysée Palace a year ago; but a ravaged man, livid in the floodlights illuminating the scene. He listens as survivors recount the hellish whistle of the rocket, the women returning from the market who were mowed down by the deluge of pellets, the panic in the streets as people rushed for shelter, tripping over bodies, the brave mother who covered her child with her body and was killed, the arrival of rescuers, the anguish that another rocket could follow.

“What a disaster,” he groans.

He repeats it several times: “What a disaster . . . We are kilometers from the front. There’s no one here but civilians. This isn’t war—it’s slaughter. This isn’t a war crime; it’s a crime against humanity.”

And then, standing at the edge of the crater formed by a rocket that had failed to explode, Mr. Poroshenko—suddenly immense and strangely colossal because of the bulletproof vest that his aides had him don under his jacket—points at the engine of death as if it were his personal enemy and adds: “A monster of that size, outlawed by the Geneva Convention, the separatists don’t have those. That could only be the Russians.”

He repeats, a grim smile freezing his features. “The Russians. When I think that the Russians will be there in Minsk tomorrow and will have the audacity to talk about peace . . .”

A doctor, his arms bare even though the temperature is well below zero, approaches to escort us to the nearby hospital emergency room.

The president lingers at the bed of each of the injured, sometimes asking questions, sometimes offering sympathy, sometimes, with the hardiest, trying to joke. I think I even see him give a quiet blessing to an old woman as she hands him the fragments that had been removed from her legs, saying, “Here, Petro, you give these to Putin. Tell him they’re from Zoya in Kramatorsk.”

We make a last stop, far from the city, at the military headquarters of the general staff of the Donetsk region. In a vast building entirely covered with camouflage net are dozens of officers, helmeted Herculeses, their faces furrowed and exhausted, some asleep on their feet with their backs to the wall, still clutching their weapons. And there Mr. Poroshenko resumes the role of war leader. He disappears into the map room with his top officers, where he gives orders for the counteroffensive that will have to be launched if the Minsk summit fails.

It is 3 a.m.

Military intelligence fears the launch of another rocket attack. In any event it is time to go. We take the same route back, though it seems even more desolate.

Once we return to the plane, I tell President Poroshenko that I had dinner the night before in Paris with a former ambassador to Ukraine who is advocating deliveries of weapons—and who believes that the Ukrainian armed forces are in a tough spot, especially in the Debaltsevo pocket, where thousands of troops are menaced on three sides.

“He’s not wrong there,” Mr. Poroshenko responds with a smile, digging into the cold cuts that the flight attendant has just brought to him. “But make no mistake: The time is long past when the navy at Sebastopol and the barracks at Belbek and Novofedorivka gave up without firing a shot. That’s the only advantage of war: You learn how to wage it.”

I also tell him that many in the U.S. and Europe doubt the capacity of his soldiers to make good use of the sophisticated weapons that eventually may be delivered to them. At this, he guffaws and, after exchanging a few words in Ukrainian with his chief of staff, says:

“Well, tell them, please, that they’ve got it wrong. We would need a week, no more, to take full possession of the equipment. Know that, because we had no choice, our army is about to become the best, the bravest, and the most hardened force in the region.”

From that point on, he darkens again only when I mention the uphill battle that his American friends will have to fight before any equipment can be delivered: Congress will have to reapprove the Ukrainian Freedom Support Act that it first passed on Dec. 11. It is an appropriation bill to release the $350 million in military aid that was approved. Final approval will be needed from President Obama, whose tendency to procrastinate in such matters is well known. And a decision will need to be made about whether the equipment can be taken from existing stocks or will have to be manufactured, which would take even more time.

“I know all that,” Mr. Poroshenko mutters, closing his eyes. “I know. But maybe we’ll get a miracle. Yes, a miracle.”

That reminds me that Petro Poroshenko is a practicing Christian, a deacon in civilian life. On the presidential campaign trail last year, in Dnepropetrovsk and elsewhere, before every meeting, I watched him find the nearest church and take a moment to kneel and pray.
***

The idea also crosses my mind that the skilled strategist that he has become—the civilized man whom circumstances have obliged to join the admirable club of reluctant heroes who make war without wanting to—is possibly thinking that what he most needs now is to gain time. Perhaps gaining a few weeks would be the chief advantage of the accords that, without for an instant trusting Vladimir Putin’s word, he is going to sign.

Minsk. Is it a fool’s bargain?

Will the agreement he signs be a false one that, like last September’s, stops the war for just a month or two?

Of course. Deep down, he knows it. His statement after the signing of the accord was simple: “The main thing which has been achieved is that from Saturday into Sunday there should be declared without any conditions at all a general cease-fire.”

For the time being, the nightmare will recede a bit.

It is nearly dawn when we finally land in Kiev. And President Poroshenko has only a few hours to make it to that summit where, one way or another, he has a rendezvous with history.

Mr. Lévy’s books include “Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism” (Random House, 2008). This article was translated from the French by Steven B. Kennedy.
145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Europe New Terrorist Normal on: February 16, 2015, 09:33:58 AM
Europe’s New Terrorist Normal
Islamist attacks are becoming routine on the Continent.

Feb. 15, 2015 2:52 p.m. ET
210 COMMENTS

Islamist violence visited Denmark twice on the weekend, underscoring Europe’s new terrorist normal. Homegrown or immigrant Muslim terrorists targeting innocents and the Western way of life are becoming a feature of Continental life.

The alleged assailant didn’t choose his victims at random. First he fired dozens of rounds at a cafe in Copenhagen during a debate on free speech, killing one and wounding three. Police believe the same man attacked a synagogue hours later, killing a Jewish civilian guard and maiming two officers. Early Sunday police killed the man they believe committed both attacks. Witnesses heard him cry “Allahu Akbar” during the cafe assault.

Among those attending the debate at the Krudttoenden cafe was Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has received death threats and an al Qaeda bounty since the 2007 publication of a cartoon he drew that mocked Muhammad. A failed suicide bomber attacking downtown Stockholm in 2010 mentioned Mr. Vilks’s name in an email explaining his motives, and later that year the cartoonist’s home was the target of arson. He lives under police protection.

Denmark is also home to Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that set off days of Muslim rage world-wide in 2005 by publishing Muhammad cartoons. Five suspected terrorists were arrested in 2010 and four later convicted for plotting to murder Jyllands-Posten staffers, and an ax-wielding Somali tried but failed to murder one of the newspaper’s cartoonists at his home.

The 8,000-strong Danish Jewish community has also been besieged by anti-Semitism from the country’s Muslim quarters. In 2012 Israel’s Ambassador to Denmark warned visiting Israelis not to wear kippahs and other visible religious symbols.

Elite hostility to Israel amplifies street-level anti-Semitism. The Danish government has disbursed millions of kroner to anti-Israel activists and agitprop campaigns in recent years, according to NGO Monitor, an Israeli civil-society organization. Perhaps Danish officials will now spend less time henpecking Jerusalem about efforts to prevent terrorism and devote more energy to protecting their own citizens from the same forces.

They might look to France, where since the attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, the government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls has ramped up counterterror powers. These include isolating jihadists in prison, giving security forces broader authority to monitor terror suspects online, and boosting staff and funding at intelligence agencies. These prudent measures, so bewailed by imprudent civil libertarians, can help avert large-scale atrocities that would result in public demand for mass detentions, expulsions and other broad restrictions.

Stopping terrorism from becoming normal will also require describing accurately the jihadist threat. The Obama Administration in the U.S. has refused to identify Islamism—or even “Islamic extremism”—as the ideology behind the recent attacks on the Continent and the horrors in Syria and Iraq. Such obfuscation doesn’t help moderate and reformist Muslims, whose cooperation is essential to defeating jihadists. Copenhagen can set a counterterror example by calling the enemy by its name.




146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 16, 2015, 09:28:51 AM
A powerful and symbolic statement with ACTION by Al Sisi that I am sure the Coptics will note.
147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: February 16, 2015, 09:25:09 AM
This would be an example of why:

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/191381#.VOILhS5UWAh
148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: France rushes to reassure on: February 16, 2015, 09:21:55 AM

By
Jason Chow
Feb. 16, 2015 8:50 a.m. ET
23 COMMENTS

PARIS—France’s top leaders rushed Monday to reassure the country’s Jews about their safety after a Jewish graveyard in eastern France was desecrated and a gunman in Copenhagen targeted a synagogue, a month after deadly attacks in Paris.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for France to unite against “Islamo-fascism,” and reaffirmed his call for French Jews to stay in France, even amid encouragement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for European Jews to move to Israel. ("Islamo Fascism"?  Nice to see the term I repeated have suggested here over the years to be coming into accepted usage.)

“France is injured as you are and France doesn't want you to leave,” Mr. Valls told French radio, in what he described as a message to French Jews. “France once again expresses its love for you, its support and solidarity.”

France is grappling with a growing sense of insecurity among its Jewish community, who feel threatened by a rise of anti-Semitic attacks.

The graveyard vandalism left around 300 out of 400 tombstones knocked down and spray-painted in Sarre-Union, a town near the French-German border. The incident came just over a month after a gunman killed four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris, part of a three-day spree of violence that left 17 people dead. Over the weekend, Jewish fears were further fanned when a lone gunman in Copenhagen killed a 37 year-old Jewish man who was guarding the door of a bat mitzvah ceremony in a parish hall.

Danish police said they shot and killed the gunman, a day after he also attacked a seminar on free speech that featured a Swedish cartoonist who has lampooned Islam.

    ‘France is injured as you are and France doesn't want you to leave.’
    —French Prime Minister Manuel Valls

Since the January attacks, France has tightened security at Jewish institutions, posting police and soldiers outside Jewish schools, community centers and places of worship. The community, which is already on edge, was further rattled after a man wielding a knife attacked soldiers guarding a Jewish center in the southern French city of Nice earlier this month.

France has the world’s third-largest Jewish population after Israel and the U.S., according to most estimates, but many French Jews have been moving to Israel, citing fears about their security at home.
France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls--pictured here, second from right, with Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders from the Paris suburb of Evry earlier this month--has vowed to ensure the protection of the country’s Jews after the desecration of a Jewish cemetery at the weekend. ENLARGE
France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls--pictured here, second from right, with Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders from the Paris suburb of Evry earlier this month--has vowed to ensure the protection of the country’s Jews after the desecration of a Jewish cemetery at the weekend. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise in France. In 2013, the latest year for which data have been compiled, there were 423 reported anti-Semitic incidents in France, compared with 82 in 1999, according to the Jewish Community Security Service, a body that compiles data based on police reports.

Around 6,900 French Jews moved to Israel in 2014, up from 3,300, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel, an Israeli organization that oversees the immigration process. The number is expected to grow to 10,000 in 2015, the agency said in January after the Paris attacks.

President François Hollande also sought to stem the tide. “I won’t allow words spoken in Israel that allow people to think that Jews don’t have their place in Europe and, in particular, in France,” he said earlier Monday. Mr. Hollande is scheduled to visit the cemetery on Tuesday.
149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Egypt hits ISIS in Libya after 21 Coptics decapitated on: February 16, 2015, 08:41:53 AM
http://www.wsj.com/articles/egypt-strikes-islamic-state-targets-in-libya-1424071790?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories
150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi Arabia is the problem on: February 15, 2015, 11:32:05 PM
ISIS isn't the long term problem, Saudi Arabia is
Posted: 13 Feb 2015 09:32 PM PST

Here's a new way to think about something that should be obvious...

To the politicians in DC and financiers in New York, Saudi Arabia is an island of stability in a sea of chaos.  A reliable ally, willing to keep the oil flowing, year in and year out.  A place that's not vulnerable to the instability that routinely guts the countries around it.

Of course, that line of thinking is utterly misguided.  The opposite is true. 

In reality, Saudi Arabia is extremely fragile and much of the chaos we see in the Middle East is due to the way Saudi Arabia avoids falling to pieces.  Worse, we are largely to blame for this.  We go along with this charade, and our willingness to play along is doing much of the damage.

To understand why this illusion Saudi stability is so toxic, let's dig into a very smart idea from thermodynamics called dissipative structures.  In fact, the idea was so good that won Ilya Prigogine the Nobel prize in Chemistry.  Prigogine's idea provides us with insight into how everything from how biological structures (e.g. bacteria, apes...) to natural phenomena (e.g. tornadoes) to social systems (e.g. nation-states) build order and prevent collapse.

The important part of this idea for us, is that all dissipative structures grow by exporting or expelling waste products into an external environment.  In other words, they achieve "order" by getting rid of the disorder produced by building it. 

Here it is in very simple terms.  Within biological structures, eating produces the energy needed to build and maintain an organism.  In turn, consuming food produces disorder in the form of feces.  Organisms expel feces into the outside world because holding onto it is dangerous.  The same process is true with almost all complex structures. With automobiles, it's exhaust fumes. With complex social systems, it is everything from warfare to pollution.

We could spend all day on this idea, but let's cut to the chase and apply this framework to Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia is a particularly expensive dissipative structure because it is extremelyrigid, anachronistic, and unchanging.   To maintain this archaic structure despite the titanic forces of globalization trying to pull it apart, it must export an incredible amount of disorder (entropy) into the surrounding region.  Disorder such as:

   A corrosive fundamentalist ideology.  The KSA's Wahhabism fuels both ISIS and al Qaeda.

   Violent zealots.  The vast majority of the hijackers during 9/11 were Saudi as well as thousands of ISIS members.

   Financial support.  Saudi Arabia provided the start-up funding for both al Qaeda and ISIS.   

Obviously, this entropy has come at a cost to everyone in the world.  It has been causing instability in the countries around in the Middle East.  It caused the terrorism of 9/11 and the recent rise of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.   

Worse, the damage being done by Saudi Arabia is getting worse with each passing year as it continues to defy the inexorable gravitational attraction of a fluid, dynamic, and tightly integrated global system. 

That's the problem. 

This means that even if ISIS is defeated in the next couple of years, Saudi Arabia's dysfunction will produce something worse soon thereafter. 
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